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Charlotte+Asher creates chic diaper bags for the stylish, modern mom.

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Parenthood related topics written by the founders of charlotte+asher.

When Things Don't Go As Planned

Laura Hahn

 They're worth it.

They're worth it.

As a typical Type A personality, being in control is a big thing for me, though I accommodate when I can. However, after having kids, I've learned that I need to be even more flexible, or at least provide flexibility within a framework so both the kids and I don't go completely bonkers. It's a battle of the wills for sure, and while my older son has usually been pretty easy going, he is definitely in a phase right now where he wants to exert his independence. As for my almost 2 year old daughter, well, I never really had a chance. Girlfriend knows what she wants and when!

Pregnancy is oftentimes a precursor to showing you, as a future parent, that sometimes things are just out of your control. Both Chantal and I had subchorionic hemorrhages with our second pregnancies, and while I didn't even know what those were the first time around, I later found out that up to a third of women experience them. Luckily, they ended up disappearing on their own for both of us, but Chantal had to be on bedrest for several weeks. 

As your due date approaches, things can happen quickly and all of a sudden you're giving birth weeks early. With my son, I went in for a routine weekly checkup at 37 weeks and they found a heart arrhythmia. We chalked it up to me drinking a different Starbucks drink that may have had more caffeine than usual. However, when it didn't go away after a couple weeks, I went in for non-stress tests and then I was told that I would be induced in a couple days at 39 weeks. Though the arrhythmia was not serious, they wanted to make sure that he was out of the womb in case it did turn into something else, and usually going through the birth canal caused it to go away. I had planned something every day leading up to my due date to stay busy, but I ended up having to cancel most of those plans! And luckily, everything worked out with my son.

Even when you try to put together a birth plan, I've found that the best plan is to be flexible. If you want to give birth in a birthing center, a water tub, a hospital--move toward those plans. However, just remember that the most important thing is for you and the baby to be safe and healthy. Have backups for "just in case" so you're not forced to make a decision you haven't thought about yet while in the middle of gut wrenching contractions or while you and your partner are very emotional. And make sure you feel comfortable with and trust your medical caregivers, whether it is an OB or midwife--if you know you're being treated with good hands, you'll feel better about saying yes to whatever they're recommending.

Did anything throw your birth plans out the window?

Boy or Girl? When to find out baby's sex

Chantal Standafer

 Snuggling with baby #1 right after she was born and we found out it's a girl! 

Snuggling with baby #1 right after she was born and we found out it's a girl! 

There are so many decisions to make while being pregnant. Some are more important than others. When it came to finding out the sex of our babies, we made a different decision for each of the pregnancies. 

The first time around we decided to wait until the baby was born to find out if it was a boy or a girl. It was pretty awesome: my doctor handed the baby to my husband, who announced that it was a girl, and then we used her name for the first time! Part of me just wanted that surprise at the end! And there was the practical side of me: we knew we wanted to have more than one child, and didn’t want to receive just blue or pink items for this first baby. But in the process, I did have to listen to a whole lot of “I can’t believe you’re not finding out! Do you want a boy or a girl? Etc.” Then again, while it can be a bit annoying, it’s definitely not the end of the world.

I think the hardest part for me was getting used to her name. We had chosen both a boy name and a girl name months before she was born. But because we didn't know if we were having a boy or girl, we hadn't used the names at all. It took me weeks until I truly felt like that name was really hers. 

With the second and third children we found out during the pregnancies. Part of me wanted to wait like we had the first time. But I didn't really care about it that much. After a little discussion, we decided to just go ahead and find out.

With our second child, we found out the sex via blood test around 12 weeks. I definitely had not thought about finding out this way! My doctor talked with us about it, and at the time it was very inexpensive for us to get the test. I had the blood draw, and then about a week or two later I received a call from the office with the results. So I found out we were having a boy while sitting in the car. And then I went inside and got to tell my husband the exciting news. 

 Announcing baby #2 was a boy! 

Announcing baby #2 was a boy! 

The third time around we waited until the anatomy scan to do so. And because of travel plans, we had to wait until I was 20 weeks to schedule this appointment. I was able to arrange it at a time when my husband could go with me, and we also had the two older kids with us. Our four-year-old daughter was very excited to find out, while our two-year-old son wasn't nearly as into the experience. But it was fun to be all together when we found out that baby #3 is a girl! 

 Big sister and big brother announcing baby #3 is a girl! 

Big sister and big brother announcing baby #3 is a girl! 

In the end though, we announced the news the same way. We first contacted our immediate family, then we posted on social media. No big surprise with a cake or balloons. I always love seeing the different, more elaborate ways people share their news. But this more simple way is what worked for us!

When did find out baby’s sex? How did you share the news with friends and family?

Back to the Daily Grind

Laura Hahn

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With Fall officially just around the corner and school started up, gone are the lazy summer days. It seems that whenever September hits, everyone, especially parents, goes into overdrive. I personally welcome the structure and predictable schedule of the fall, and the return of TV shows. However, oftentimes we start the season optimistically only to get overwhelmed and burnt out months later. That's why this year, I am consciously scheduling our individual and family schedules to have as much balance as we can between family and social activities/obligations.

As a mom of two young children aged 4 and 1.5 years, I am coming to realize more and more that I need to cherish this age. My son will be in Kindergarten next year, and after that he's going to be in school full time for the next 12 years. We won't have Fridays off from preschool anymore to avoid the crowds and do a fun activity, so I am taking advantage of that and making trips to the farm, apple picking, the Children's Museum and more. I'm also using that day as an option to just hang out at home and rest, if we need to. I realize how fortunate we are to have that time, and I want to soak him up as much as I can (while he still likes me!). At the same time, we need a few activities so we don't go bonkers at home, so I've limited it to two things during the week. With all the literature out there about parenting, I'm just trying to hold myself to the standard of everything in moderation. Kids need to learn time management, but they also need time to be bored and just be children with few cares in the world.

As they say, the days are long but the years are short. With full-time working parents, this seems to ring especially true. When weekends are the only time to get quality time together as a family, sometimes we just need to say "no" to things that aren't absolutely necessary and plan a purposeful outing. Only you know your limits--if you're still getting in time for self-care and have time to spare, give back where you can. If you're barely holding on by the seams, do your best to delegate what you can and do what you need to do. Either way, you're doing a great job.

What are some ways you try to achieve work/life balance?

Vaccines and Teens

Chantal Standafer

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This is the last week of National Immunization Awareness Month. And last but not least, it's time to focus on preteens and teens. As with babies and young children, pregnant women, and adults, there are certain vaccines that can be very important for keeping teens healthy now as well as setting then up for a healthy life.

While our kids (and yours) may be nowhere near the teen years, we know that they'll be here before we know it. And I don't know about you, but I like to have an idea of what's to come down the road. So here's the quick roundup of the top vaccinations for those formative years:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: Meningococcal bacteria can cause infections in the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)  and blood (septicemia). These infections can have very severe effects, including hearing loss, learning disabilities, among others. There are two different vaccines-- meningococcal conjugate vaccine and serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.  

  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine: HPV infections can cause some kinds of cancers (cervix, vagina, penis, among others). By getting vaccinated against HPV, most of those cases of cancer can be prevented.  

  • Tdap vaccine: While children receive the DTaP vaccine early in their lives, they can wear off over time. By getting the Tdap booster shot, preteen and teens can stay protected from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

  • Flu vaccine: Teens and preteens need to receive this vaccine every year. The flu vaccine is updated each year, formulated to protect against the strains of the flu virus that are predicted to be the most prevalent that year.

No matter what stage in life you (or your child) are in, it’s important to make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations. If you are unsure of this, be sure to contact your primary care doctor (or child’s pediatrician). He or she will be able to assess you and provide recommendations.  Vaccines still remain the best protection against many devastating diseases!


 

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Vaccines: Not Just for Kids

Laura Hahn

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As an adult, you have hopefully received all the vaccinations administered to you as a child. (If you're not sure, speak to your doctor about checking your records and getting up to date.) It's important for adults to stay up to date on booster shots and the flu vaccine each year. In addition to getting the Tdap while pregnant, this is especially true for family members and caregivers before coming in contact with a new baby, since whooping cough in particular can be deadly for newborns. Before your nanny starts or you have family members visit, it is prudent to request that they all get a Tdap so you know your child is safe.

While our platform is used to bring awareness to preventable diseases and help to children in need, it's important to remember that tens of thousands of adults in the US alone still suffer, are hospitalized, or even die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Getting vaccinated is quick and economical; it saves families money by preventing time off from work or time in the hospital for recovery. The recommended vaccines for adults are influenza (flu), shingles, pneumonia, hepatitis, and whooping cough. A survey in 2014 showed that the majority of adults have not received a Tdap, pneumococcal, shingles, or flu shot, and as we've mentioned before, vaccination rates sometimes need to be up to 90-95% in order for herd immunity to work.

Talk with your health care professional about which vaccines are right for you based on your age, health, job, lifestyle, and other factors, in addition to making sure you're up to date on all other vaccines. If you can't get to the doctor's office, you can also get vaccinated at pharmacies, some work places, community health clinics, and health departments. You can take the CDC's quiz here to find out which vaccines might be recommended for you. And you can also find a vaccine provider near you here.

Preventative Measures: Getting the Flu Shot During Pregnancy

Chantal Standafer

 Nothing like family snuggles. 

Nothing like family snuggles. 

As we get into August, thoughts of flu start to pop up. Not because it's going around yet, but the signs offering the flu shot are appearing at pharmacies. It's a gentle reminder that the flu season (generally October-March, but even into May) is just around the corner. 

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. It is contagious, believed to be passed by droplets created when infected people cough, sneeze or talk (so basically normal daily life being in contact with other humans). People can be contagious before they show signs of the illness, and can remain contagious for a number of days after coming down with it. This illness is characterized by a number of not so lovely symptoms including fever, fatigue, and body aches, among others. To put it mildly, it's not pretty. 

Getting the flu while pregnant can be especially challenging and dangerous. According to the CDC, because of the natural changes in women's bodies during pregnancy, they are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu, including hospitalization, preterm labor and delivery. 

Good news is that woman can receive the flu shot! While there are two available deliveries of the vaccine, the Mayo Clinic makes a clear recommendation that pregnant women only receive the shot and should steer clear of the nasal spray (the latter is made from a live virus, which is to be avoided during pregnancy). The effect of the vaccination is two-fold. Just like when getting the Tdap during pregnancy, the mother is protected, plus she transfers immunity to the baby. This is extremely important because infants cannot receive a flu vaccination until they are 6 months old. 

Be sure to talk with your OB/GYN or midwife about any questions you have. They are there to help and want you to have the healthiest pregnancy possible! Plus, there's a good chance you can get your flu shot at one of your upcoming appointments. But don't worry, if that's not an option most pharmacies can administer the shot too (and usually without much of a wait)! 

National Immunization Awareness Month: Babies + Young Kids

Laura Hahn

 Summertime cruisin'.

Summertime cruisin'.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and we've teamed up with the CDC to highlight the benefits of immunization across all age groups. This week we're focusing on infants and young children, which as you know, is a topic near and dear to our hearts since each bag purchase provides 5 life-saving vaccinations to children in need. In the end, parents just want to do what's best for their children, and vaccinating them is one of the best things you can do.

We encourage genuine discussion about vaccinations, and support scientific evidence from peer-reviewed studies. That being said, a question that often comes up from parents who do want to vaccinate their kids revolves around the vaccination schedule. Isn't it a lot for a tiny baby to get so many shots at once? Can't we space them out more so that they get fewer at each appointment, but will get them all eventually? And the answer we agree with is: stick to the schedule if your child is healthy. 

If your baby is immunocompromised in any way, definitely adhere to your doctor's recommendations. However, if your child is otherwise healthy, the recommended vaccine schedule is perfectly safe, and has been studied and tested to be the most effective at keeping your children free from these preventable diseases. The current schedule allows your child to be protected from 14 different diseases by age 2. And the amazing thing is that kids now vs. 30 years ago are protected from 14 diseases instead of 8, and are only inoculated with 150 bacterial and viral proteins, vs. the 3,000+ like before. The main reason why following the schedule is so important is because you never know when your baby might be exposed. There are also no known advantages to delaying, so why wait and risk getting your child sick, since most need a few dosages to be the most effective? That's even why it's recommended to give them a head start by having mom get vaccinated herself in her third trimester (more on this next week!).

With all the advances in medicine, we oftentimes forget how fortunate we are to have once rampant diseases kept at bay. More people have been taking this for granted, which is why outbreaks of measles and pertussis have popped up in the past several years. You should definitely voice any concerns you might have with your child's pediatrician and search for answers from several reputable sources. But can you really deny that vaccines aren't safe or effective when we've eradicated small pox and essentially polio? There are so many things that we want for our children--but their health comes first. Vaccinating them from birth, according to schedule, is putting them at a distinct advantage.

Kicking the pregnancy back pain

Chantal Standafer

 Bumpie pregnant with baby #2, Spring 2015

Bumpie pregnant with baby #2, Spring 2015

Being pregnant brings on so many new things. There's excitement, some nervousness perhaps....and most likely at some point some physical discomfort. I mean, you're growing a person. And your body is shifting things around in order to accommodate that little peanut. ACOG has a whole FAQ sheet on back pain during pregnancy! Clearly it's a thing. 

When the pain shows up and the severity of it can differ. I know for myself I experienced discomfort much earlier in my second pregnancy than in my first. There were various factors involved. One of the major ones was that because of having limited activity during part of my second pregnancy, my body just didn't feel as strong and able to keep up with my shifting center of gravity and the growing baby. But there are ways to ease that discomfort. And you don't even have to leave your house to do it!

While nothing new or earth shattering, stretching can be one of the key components in relieving pain. Remember growing up when you did sports (or even just PE class), you'd have to stretch? Well, the same reason stretching was important then is still relevant now. If muscles in your body are tight, they can be pulling on other parts, making you uncomfortable. Good news is that there are so many wonderful, simple stretches you can do to help with the pain. The Mayo Clinic suggests doing the Cat-Cow yoga pose to stretch the lower back. Sarah Isaac of FitMom Charlotte put together this short video (using yours truly as the model) of three simple stretches that can make a huge difference.  As long as your doctor gives you the ok to be up and about, there's always something you can do to help with the pregnancy discomfort! 

What are your favorite ways to alleviate pregnancy back pain?  

Vacationing with Kids

Laura Hahn

 Making a pit stop at dad's alma mater before heading down to NY for a friend's wedding.

Making a pit stop at dad's alma mater before heading down to NY for a friend's wedding.

With the official start of summer next week, let's be honest with what's on our minds: vacation! Now, vacationing with kids may not necessarily mean what it did before you had kids (read: silence, sleeping in, and not eating dinner at 5 pm), but it's always great to take a break from the daily grind and go on a new adventure and make some memories. That being said, if this is your first summer with your baby, you might be scrambling for tips and ideas on how to survive this huge wrench in your schedule you may have just started to groove in. No fear! We are here to help you.

  1. Have little to no expectations. Things are going to go wrong. The baby is not going to sleep when she normally does. The sleeping arrangements are not going to be as perfect as home (which may not even be that perfect!), so just do what you need to do for everyone to get as much rest as they can. If that means co-sleeping just for the trip, well, maybe that's ok and we'll pray that things go smoothly once you're back home. If that means renting an AirBNB with an extra bedroom so you can have space, maybe it'll be totally worth the money. Just go into your vacation knowing that things aren't going to run perfectly, and you might just enjoy it a little more.

  2. Don't over schedule yourselves. If you're going on a city vacation and there are lots of sights to see and they happen to be close by to each other, you might be able to make it work. However, if the kids are probably going to be skipping their naps, then just make a list of 1-2 must-see/do things for the day, and if you achieve that, success! If not, you know what you can do tomorrow.

  3. Just bring what you need. It's insanely easy to overpack with kids. However, keep in mind that if you have access to a washer/dryer, then only pack a few outfits and do laundry there. If you're going abroad, definitely make sure you bring any medication for ease: Motrin/Tylenol, a thermometer, and anything else they're using like an inhaler or epi-pen. If you're low on luggage space and are going away for awhile, just bring enough diapers to last you a few days and buy some there if necessary. Make a food bag for snacks on a road trip so you don't have to make as many stops. If you're flying, see if you can rent a car seat instead of lugging your own (especially handy with 2+ kids). Remember that you only need to bring one of baby's favorite lovey/toy/book; when you're out and and about, there will be new and exciting things to do and play with.

Have fun! And while you should definitely be in the moment as much as you can, don't forget to snap a few photos so you can look back and hopefully only remember the good stuff. :)

What are some other tips you would add?

Summer is (almost) here!

Chantal Standafer

June is here! It may have just begun and summer may still be a few weeks away. But for me, our summer schedule is here, and in my mind that means that summer has arrived. I am so excited about that!

During the school year our schedule gets so full with regular commitments. All of my weekly commitments, such as my MOPS mom group, ended in May and will not resume until mid-September. Yes, I'm a little sad to see some of that routine go away. But that disappointment is far outweighed by a sense of freedom. Sometimes I just need a break! 

And with this extra time I have grand plans: we're going to take time to explore our city and go on adventures. Not climbing mountains kinds of adventures, but ones that are perfect for pint-sized munchkins. Honestly, the kids think going to the library is a fantastic adventure, so we'll definitely do that a lot. And take the train. I do not have a huge bucket list for things to do, but that's ok. I want to leave room for their suggestions and to be more spontaneous. Some days that may mean just creating an adventure in the backyard.

Now that I have an idea of what I want to do, I also need to be sure to guard myself from my usual pitfalls. Generally, this is wanting to check things off of my to-do list. Or starting one thing in the house, which then spirals into other tasks. At the end of the day I look back, disappointed that we didn't get to do this activity or the other. I don't want that to be the case this summer. So my plan is that for days we plan to do an excursion, I'll have a goal time to head out of the house. I'll have to prioritize my tasks. If meeting that time (or time window) means not doing my makeup, well that's just fine. 

This also does not mean that I'll be catering to my kids and just doing what they want all summer long. They absolutely do not need to be entertained, and they certainly do not need to be engaging with me all the time! But when we do get out of the house, particularly for something stimulating where they get to explore and run around, the rest of our day goes much smoother. They're a little tired and might even nap or have quiet time. And their attitudes tend to be better. Um, yes please! 

So yes, I'm so excited that summer is here. Yes, I'm looking forward to the nice sunny, warm weather. But I am really so excited to explore with our almost 2 and 4 year olds. There's nothing quite like seeing life through their eyes, and having some quality time and fun. 

How are you feeling about the upcoming summer? What are your big plans?